A lot of the articles written about solo travel in Portugal are quite generic, and don’t really offer any specific advice. Many are just a list of things to do (e.g. eat a pastel de nata, stroll around the city, etc.) but with the words “solo travel” in the title. I wanted to provide something that was a little more practical. Hopefully, it’s useful.
Portugal is a great destination for solo travellers, both men and women. It’s safe, affordable, friendly, gay-friendly, and English is widely spoken. If you’re looking for your next solo travel destination (or maybe your first), Portugal should be a top contender.
Accommodation for solo travellers visiting Portugal
You don’t have to stay in hostels as a solo traveller, but you’re much more likely to meet other people if you stay in a hostel than if you stay in a hotel or apartment.
However, meeting people in hostels isn’t guaranteed. Hostels should be good places to meet other travellers, but often they can be quite unsociable places. Usually this is just because someone needs to make the first move and start and a conversation and, well, nobody wants to be the person to do that, so everyone just plays on their phones.
Some hostels in Portugal do evening meals (usually for around €8-10) or free walking tours and both of these can be a great way to break the ice and meet the other people staying at the hostel. They’re perfect for people that want to meet other travellers, but aren’t looking for a party hostel.
Of course, if you are looking to party, look at the hostels mentioned below that do pub crawls or label themselves as a “party hostel.”
Some of the hostels that offer sociable meals or other communal events include:
- Home Hostel Lisbon – A popular hostel with free co-working for guests (great for digital nomads), night’s out (but not a pub crawl), and the famous “mamma’s dinner” evening meal.
- Yes! Lisbon Hostel – Party hostel that offers a pub crawl and free walking tour.
- Lisbon Destination Hostel – Lisbon hostel set inside Rossio train station that offers pub crawls, fado tours, trips to Sintra, free walking tours, and more.
- The Independente Hostel & Suites – Boutique hostel offering communal dinners and movie nights.
- Oasis Lisbon – Popular Lisbon hostel that offers pub crawls, dinners, BBQs, and tours.
- Goodmorning Lisbon Hostel – Offering breakfasts, communal evening meals, organised pub crawls, and a free hour of beer and sangria every evening, this is definitely one of the most sociable hostels in Lisbon.
- Lost Inn Lisbon – Luxury hostel that offers different events every day, including dinners, walking tours, and free homemade sangria.
- Gallery Hostel – Boutique hostel that attracts a slightly older crowd, (late 20s-40s) and offers an evening meal and free walking tour.
- Yes! Porto Hostel – Popular Porto hostel that offers a free walking tour, pub crawl, and dinner for guests.
- Casa d’Alagoa – Popular hostel in Faro that offers communal dinners for guests.
Airbnb and Booking.com are the two accommodation websites that I use the most in Portugal. While Booking.com is great for hostels and hotels, Airbnb is great for renting a room or an entire apartment.
You would expect renting a room to mean staying in someone’s spare room, but that’s not always the case – especially in cities like Lisbon and Porto. A lot of rooms that I’ve rented in Lisbon especially have been in large houses with 4+ bedrooms where every room is an Airbnb rental. These are fine for cheap accommodation, but they usually don’t have a common area (that anyone uses anyway) and can feel a little soulless.
Staying in a hotel by yourself is quite a solitary experience, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want.
Tip: By default, Booking.com (and some other accommodation websites) assume that you’re travelling as 2 adults and 0 children. You should always change this to 1 adult as some rooms are cheaper if you’re just travelling as 1 person.
Other accommodation tips
Is Portugal a good solo destination for women?
Statistically, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. Although pickpocketing is a problem in some touristy places, violent crime, burglaries, and other things that are a concern in other parts of the world aren’t common here.
Of course, you should still always be careful. Here are some tips for solo female travel in Portugal.
- Consider sticking to female-only dorms, if you stay in hostels – It’s not essential, but probably wiser. Tip: Hostelworld.com has a filter that allows you to search specifically for female-only dorms.
- Share your Uber driver info with a trusted friend – Uber (and the other taxi apps in Portugal) are generally very safe, but it’s better to be safe than sorry: take a screenshot and send it to a friend every time you take a taxi.
- Understand that people in Portugal stare – It’s a cultural thing in Portugal (and most of Southern Europe), and it doesn’t just apply to women.
- Avoid walking alone late at night – Portugal is probably one of the safest countries in the world to walk along late at night, but it’s always safer to get a taxi or public transport (Taxis are cheap in Portugal and taxi apps like Uber and Kapten are even cheaper).
Other tips for staying safe in Portugal (both men and women)
- Watch out for pickpockets on public transport – Pickpocketing on some public transport routes (e.g. Tram 28 in Lisbon) is quite common, so keep your valuables close to you at all times.
- Watch out for the scams – There aren’t many scams in Portugal, but it’s good to be aware of the ones that exist.
- Protect your valuables with travel (or even gadget insurance) – Most travel insurance policies cover gadgets like laptops and mobile phones up to a certain amount. Usually this isn’t as much as a new iPhone or decent laptop costs so, if you’re travelling with expensive gadgets, consider upping the amount of cover for gadgets or taking our a separate gadget insurance policy.
- Don’t leave valuables in rental cars – Car break-ins can be a problem in Portugal, and rental cars are normally targeted as people are more likely to have valuables in the car. This isn’t as much a problem in cities as it is in isolated car parks, particularly near walking trails.
- Don’t leave anything on the backseat that suggests you have valuables in the car.
- If you are leaving valuables in the car, put them in the boot before you get to the car park i.e. don’t let anyone lurking see that you have valuables in the car.
- Keep people up-to-date with your travel plans – It’s a good idea to give someone a copy of your itinerary, if you have a planned out route. It’s also a good idea to regularly check in with friends and family, to let them know where you are (and that you’re enjoying yourself).
- Take a business card that has your accommodation’s address – It’s very easy to forget where you’re staying. This isn’t a problem if you have your phone with you, but what happens if you run out of battery? Having a copy of your hotel or hostel’s address means that, if you get lost, you can get in a taxi and ask the driver to take you there.
Meeting people while travelling solo in Portugal
Meeting people on the road is always a challenge, regardless of whether you’re visiting Portugal or anywhere else. Often, though, it’s just about staying in the right places and doing the right activities.
The following are just a few tips for meeting people while travelling in Portugal.
Find the meetups
If you’re visiting cities like Lisbon and Porto, you’ll find plenty of events where you can meet other locals and travellers (especially Lisbon). Meetup.com is the first place you should look, but there are also regular meetups listed on couchsurfing as well – especially Lisbon where there’s a weekly Couchsurfing meetup.
Outside of Lisbon and Porto, it’s going to be hard to find organised meetups and you’ll probably need to resort to some of the other tips below.
Go on a (walking) tour
Most big cities in Portugal have a free walking tour and these always attract plenty of other solo travellers. After the tour, everyone is usually hungry and often someone will take the initiative to ask if anyone else wants to get something to eat. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough that it’s worth going on a lot of walking tours (plus you’ll probably learn something from the guide).
There are other types of tours and activities, like Portuguese cooking classes for example, but a lot of those tend to attract more couples than singles.
Other tours where you’re likely to meet solo travellers:
- Pub Crawls (mainly younger solo travellers) – These are popular in Lisbon and Porto.
- Food tours (mix of ages, with some solo travellers) – Typically more sociable than a walking tour, these can be a good way to get chatting to other travellers. You’ll find food tours in most destinations in Portugal including Lisbon, Porto, and Faro.
- Fado shows – You’ll probably go to see fado at some point while you’re in Lisbon, so why not go as part of a group either by booking a tour or joining a meetup group like Fado & Friends in Lisbon.
- Couchsurfing: The couchsurfing app and website has a “hangouts” section which lists people who want to hangout. You can also post in the forums looking for other people that want to meetup.
- Patook: The Tinder for platonic friendships. Includes some Portuguese people for those that are interested in meeting locals.
- Tinder: Although it’s meant to be a dating app, some people create profiles and state that they’re looking for friendships. Obviously, you run the risk of someone ignoring the “platonic friendships only” but many people obviously feel it’s worth the risk.
Go on an activity holiday
Whether it’s a yoga retreat, an intensive Portuguese language course, or a walking holiday, there are plenty of ways that you can visit Portugal as part of an organised trip. With the exception of silence retreats, these can be a very good way of meeting people, seeing Portugal, and trying something new at the same time.
Note: you don’t have to go on an activity holiday for the entire time you’re in Portugal. It can just be for a few days.
Solo travel destinations within Portugal
Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve (especially Lagos and Faro) are the most popular destinations for solo travellers visiting Portugal. These are all worth visiting, and these will be the places where you’ll probably do most of your socialising.
Depending on how off the beaten track you go, you may struggle to meet other solo travellers in other parts of Portugal. You will probably meet plenty of other people if you travel to other cities like Braga, Guimarães, or Évora, and if you stay in a hostel during the summer months, but you may struggle if you go to some of the smaller towns and villages in Portugal and more so if you travel off-season.
Solo travel is a bit like that, though: you have spells where you’re very much on your own and spells where you’re meeting lots of other people.
Those spells on your own are some of the best bits of solo travel and, because Portugal is so safe, it’s somewhere where you can go and just be by yourself without too many safety concerns. Just make sure you do the majority of your socialising when you’re in the more popular destinations so that you can appreciate the quieter stints.
FAQs about solo travel in Portugal
Is public transport safe?
Yes, both buses and the trains are both safe. Obviously, you should still be careful with your belongings etc., but both the trains and buses are somewhere that you should feel comfortable travelling on.
Tip: If you’re feeling antisocial, you can book a single seat in first class on some of the trains (and it only costs slightly more).
Are taxis safe?
Yes, taxis are safe in Portugal. They’re also very affordable, and (apart from some unscrupulous airport taxi drivers), usually only slightly more expensive than an Uber.
Is Portugal a good destination for older solo travellers?
Portugal attracts a lot of older travellers, most of which will be travelling as part of a couple or in a group but quite a few who will be travelling solo. It’s definitely somewhere that you can feel comfortable as an older independent traveller.
Although this is definitely a country where you’ll be comfortable travelling alone, another option would be to consider a group holiday for solo travellers. An an example: justforyou.co.uk, a UK-based solo travel company aimed at travellers aged 50+, organises several trips to Portugal per year.